Tiny and Purple

blog baby hat_4356I thought it would be a nice change to blog about something “nice”.

Last week a mom at my children’s school had a baby girl. I was lucky enough to see the sweet little baby at the grand age of two days old and thought wouldn’t it be fun to crochet a baby hat. As the gift has been delivered I can now post the project.

I  had some purple commercial yarn left in the (shrinking) stash,  a hook handy, and quickly with a search of the internet I had a pattern. Things went swimmingly until I reached the end of the project according to the instructions, looked at the hat and it appeared that the depth from crown to brim was way too short.

My next step was to go through our daughters’ bedroom trying to find a newborn sized doll. I found one, tried on the hat, and it was at least two inches too short. I then decided to search online to get a range of newborn hat measurements, only to find the circumference was fine, the depth was way off. I crocheted a couple more inches and then it looked right. Strangely, as I was finishing the hat one of my daughter’s baby hats appeared (I am guessing it had been in the doll clothes bin), so I was also able to measure the hat against a hat that I knew fit; that gave me confidence that it was the right size.

I could not believe  how quickly this hat was completed. The bulk of it was done while waiting to shoot a session and then while downloading files. I am thinking of making a bigger version for my girls, maybe even a naturally dyed cotton version.

Crocheting was a nice break from knitting up prototypes.

Now it is back to prototypes and samples……eight more to go before Easter break when I hope to take them out to the coast to show.

blog baby hat detail_4349

Crocheting and knitting by Debra Hunter

www.debra-hunter.com

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Spinning Scraps

Sometimes you wonder where an idea comes from, and then you wonder why you had to try to and make it work. This is one of those stories.

blog spinning scraps 3I have a ton of wool scraps from knitting projects. Short little pieces of yarn that I saw no point in throwing out. As the pieces accumulated I started to realize I really need to find a use for them. Some how I came up with the idea of re-spinning them. Perhaps a crazy idea, but I thought it was worth a go.

blog spinning scraps 4I started by separating the scraps into single strands. My two youngest were helpers with this.

blog spinning scraps 1Not having proper carders, or willing to make an investment for such a crazy experiment, we picked up two grooming brushes from the dollar store to help break down the wool. Two dollars was the right amount of investment for the project.

My daughter loved working on the yarn; she likes helping with everything.

blog spinning scraps 2The yarn scraps started to look kind of like fleece, so we continued.

blog spinning scraps 5At first we were “carding” all the colors together, and then we thought it would be nicer to have definite colors.

Then came the tricky part, spinning. I am a newby to spinning, very unexperienced, but I gave it a try. Some of the fibers were very short creating quite the challenge. It was VERY slow going, but it did resemble something like yarn. We’ll call it “art yarn”. I am thinking that perhaps we don’t need to break down the scraps as much and it still might spin. It appears the experiment will continue, an interesting recycling project.

blog spinning scraps 6

 

( I apologize for the recent sporadic blogging, I have been slaving away creating a website out of an existing blog  at www.debra-hunter.com . If you are visiting that blog, check out all the new additions in the top header, there is a lot to see!)

Woolisaurus – another knitted adventure

Late Sunday night my youngest, most huggy, kissy son came up to me and asked “Mama can you knit me a dinosaur?” I gave my standard “We’ll see.” response and it was left at that. By midnight I was thinking of how sweet he had been and thought why not, how hard can it be (a la “Top Gear”), and so I trekked off to the basement to find some yarn suitable for a dinosaur.

hand knit dinosaur

hand knit dinosaur

Turquoise seemed the right color for a stuffie knitted dinosaur for a preschooler. Not having a pattern I decided to start with the head and see how it went, knitting well past midnight. I figured if it went bad I could just abandon the project and my littlest one would be none the wiser, in fact he would probably have forgotten about his request by morning.

The head went well and I even managed to get a nice curve to it, and of course then I just had to see if the neck would work. By 2 am I had winged it enough to have a recognizable dinosaur head, neck and top of body.

blog woolisaurus_2656In the morning he awoke to see the started project on the kitchen table and the excitement kicked in. This dinosaur was going to be knit….today. Our son ran to get his huge multi-color dinosaur book, plopped himself down next to me, and opened the book of cartoon dinosaurs to be used for reference. After a quick discussion regarding the fact that this dinosaur was never going to be a triceratops (ever), he found a picture of the type of dinosaur his stuffie could be.

Sitting next to me, my son was the foreman. He told me how to knit the tummy, the number of legs the dinosaur needed and how long his tail should be. We did have our creative differences over the tail; I convinced him some trendy yellow stripes would look better than the red and green Christmas colors he wanted. We knit all morning and all afternoon until the dinosaur  was knit, stuffed and assembled. There was NO downtime. Looking a little under dressed we decided he needed a wooly scarf and that was knit this evening while playing (and losing) a game of Ticket to Ride.

We have named our dinosaur Woolisaurus….what else do you name a wooly dinosaur!? He measures 18 inches long and 6.5 inches high, and he has been hugged a lot already.

Being a patternless project, I probably should have written down what I was knitting as I did it, as I have now had more dinosaur requests from our other children. Maybe it is best this dinosaur is one of a kind, maybe that makes him even more special.

( www.thehuntergroup.ca for other knit items…..just not dinosaurs!)

Going for a Spin

Sometimes the Classified Ads in the newspaper provide new experiences you don’t expect. Back in the summer my dad came across an ad in the paper, “bags of wool for sale, $20.00”. He knew I had been doing all sorts of knitting projects and thought I might be interested. It did seem interesting. We called up the seller and arranged to buy a bag. She didn’t know much about the wool, she was selling it for her sister who had bought it from a neighbor in rural Alberta. Genuine mystery wool. I wasn’t too sure how I was going to use it, maybe felt it or worse case use it for stuffing……well a lot of stuffing as it was a huge bag the size of a garbage bag stuffed tight.

turkish spindleInitially I used the wool to stuff a few mini crochet toys, this didn’t make a dent in the bag of wool. Then one day in late August I took a trip to a woolen mill and in the shop  Turkish spindles. were being sold. I had watched a few tutorials on-line of spinning with them, so I decided to risk the $25 and buy a spindle and see if it would work with the mystery wool.

dyed fleece With plans to try spinning the mystery wool I started popping bits of fleece in random dye pots as I dyed yarn or fabric. There was no real plan, I just thought it would be more fun to try and spin the wool if it was colored.

spinning on a turkish spindleI will admit it took a little to get the hang of spinning the fleece. The hook on the spindle gave me some trouble. I actually took the good old X-Acto knife to the hook to allow it to grab the yarn better; I may still have to carve out the hook portion a little more. The first tiny ball of yarn took forever, but as I spun more and more it went a lot quicker and easier.

blog spinning 3I spun seven small balls in total, enough to give me a taste of spinning with the spindle.

plying the hand spun yarnThe next step was to ply the yarns together. I was really looking forward to seeing the colors combine. The concept of plying was easy, the only issue is that the hook doesn’t seem to hold the yarn in place very well and keeps slipping off. I tried all sorts of fancy tying, winding and twisting, I even briefly attempted holding the yarn in place with an elastic band (did not work!), but the yarn kept slipping off.

plyed hand spun yarnI am continuing to persevere with the plying. The mixed colors look great and will be so fun to knit up. I am wondering if I need to pick up a separate spindle for plying, perhaps a spindle that has a metal hook instead of a carved wooden hook. I am thinking that may work more successfully with plying such a chunky yarn. Still, I think it has been a fairly successful first time spinning experience with mystery wool.

Ready to Full (if you knit you’ll understand!)

ready to fullI have been working on a “fulled” project. In this case it is knitted items that are then partially felted through the process of hot water, cold water and agitation. The process shrinks the item and makes it quite dense and compressed.

I have discovered that there seems to be no science or guarantee with fulling, quite honestly it is one big science experiment that will drive you insane if you let it. For example, I have now tested 4 different yarns plus about 6 different needle sizes, a couple of different wash/agitation methods and tested dyeing before fulling and after. This has been a project of testing for almost a year. This has produced numerous failed test swatches, that are now known as “Barbie blankets”. Yes indeed the Barbie doll house has been furnished nicely with my rejects (but our daughters are thrilled!).

I think I have finally figured what works best. Strangely the knit is so big and sloppy in the beginning, yet this is the combination that shrinks down the tightest and most compact. The best wash/agitation method turned out to be the washing machine which is awfully convenient as our household with five children means the washing machine is ALWAYS running.

The funny thing about this whole process of figuring out fulling is the fourth combination I ever did was the one that gave the best results. Somehow I was convinced it could be better so I kept knitting and fulling more and more versions and only seeing disappointment. I guess there is something to be said for the saying “quit while you are ahead”.

Prep Day

The downside to any creative pursuit is the prep work. Prep work is not fun, it often feels like it gets in the way of “doing” something, but in the long run it is needed to create a better quality product.

I moan about prep work a lot. I don’t like to do lighting tests in the studio (but I do), I don’t enjoy stretching watercolor paper, and I am often tempted to dye yarn and fabric without prepping it properly but I know in the long run I will regret it so I do the proper prep work.

priming panels

priming panels

The least painful of the prep work to be done today was priming some panels for painting. It was just a couple of panels, so not a huge outlay of time. I am challenging myself to learn to paint smaller and enjoy it. I like working big, but not small so much, so in a effort to step out of my comfort zone I have prepped a few small panels to tackle.

 tied yarn

tied yarn

The next item to tackle was prepping yarn, thread and fabric for dyeing. The yarn and thread is the trickiest. I pre-plan out the colors I eventually want,  then the rough lengths I require, and finally color code with scrap yarn what each skein is destined to be. Add in two different yarns that seem kind of similar when wet and you realize what a life saver color coding is. I always dye in VERY small batches with specific ideas in mind so that I don’t have a stash of yarns just sitting there.

The threads are for a piece I am currently stitching plus a couple that are in the back of my mind. I need some greens which means dyeing the threads yellow and then a dip in the indigo vat.

scour and mordant

scour and mordant

Speaking of the indigo vat, I decided that thread was not a good enough reason to get it going again so I decided I might as well scour and mordant some cotton fabric too, after all everything else had already been prepped in this pot. A few smaller pieces of cotton were popped in as was a cotton scarf  all hemmed up. I want to play with some stitched resists mixed with indigo dyeing.

 tied yarn drying

hung out to dry

After scouring and mordanting and cooling (which took forever!) the yarns and threads and fabric are hung out to dry. Perhaps this evening some yarn will hit the dye pot; it is more than one day’s worth of dyeing. Lac, cutch madder, logwood, pomegranate, marigold and turmeric (and possibly tansy) are all on the “to dye” list. The indigo will have to wait until I get the stitch resist done. Lots to do, but at least the prep work is done for now.

 

Hunter Photographics & Studio H
art, photography and handmades by Debra Hunter

www.thehuntergroup.ca
www.debrahunter.wordpress.com

A little bit of whimsy…..

 

crochet snowy owl

A little, yet whimsical , post for today.

This little guy is all the rage in our house at the moment. He is a two inch high crocheted snowy owl. I thought it would be fun for my eldest daughter to learn to crochet making little stuffies, so I thought I would make one up in advance just to see where the problem areas might be. I think it was around the time I had the head and half the body done that everyone was shouting “Make me one, make me one!” This was followed by “Can I have a seal, can I have a dolphin,…..etc.”

crochet snowy owlOur little snowy owl is a real hit. A little bit of whimsical fun.

crochet snowy owlAs you can imagine another owl is in the works as I write. The next little friend is being made out of the wool yarn milled right here in Alberta.

 

Handmade by Debra Hunter.
Red Deer, Alberta

www.thehuntergroup.ca

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